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How Do They Dare?

by WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

In our regular Sunday morning meetings of the “Church of the Angry Apostates,” Carl S. and I have found ourselves repeatedly coming back to an interesting question: how do clergy commit egregious crimes against humanity, if they really believe they are being watched and judged by an all-powerful god?

A few examples from the “Black Collar Crime Blotter” of the Freethought Today newspaper, published by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, will serve to set the stage.

Loan Pop, a Romanian Orthodox priest, was convicted and sentenced for sexual assaults on 8 young adult women between 1999 and 2013. One woman testified that she was molested after seeking help from Pop while her husband was in a coma after a car accident.

Henry L. McGee, lead pastor at first Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, is accused of committing sexual acts with a girl starting in 2014, when she was 13. The girl told detectives that McGee had sex with her more than 15 times, at various locations.

Alfred H. Zavala, pastor of Luz del Mundo Christian Church in Oaxaca, Mexico, was charged with raping 2 sisters more than 100 times in a church office, starting when they were 9 and 10. They’re now 13 and 14. He allegedly told the girls it was their duty as Christians to have sex with him.

Now, I once believed there was a god watching my every move and thought and any serious moral misstep on my part would result in punishment by that god, either in the here and now, or in the hereafter. Thus, I cannot imagine even considering doing what these three men are accused of. I would have been scared stiff to even think of doing what they did. If they truly believed severe and possibly never ending punishment was a virtual certainty, how did these men dare to commit such atrocities?

I once believed there was a god watching my every move and thought and any serious moral misstep on my part would result in punishment by that god, either in the here and now, or in the hereafter. I can come up with only three possibilities of what must have gone through their minds. One, they would be forgiven via their prayers. This might appear reasonable except that all three were serial offenders. It seems to me that only a fool would think a god would forgive repeated, in-your-face transgressions like these. Two, maybe they think sex with children should not be illegal or considered immoral. It was apparently fairly common in Ancient Greece. I suppose this is a possible explanation for some transgressors, but only for a very small percentage of them. And three, the accused simply don’t believe in gods or hell and merely parrot the official dogma on Sundays to make a living.

As Carl S. and I have discussed this question numerous times over the past few years, we have jointly come to the conclusion that the vast majority of these perpetrators fit that third possibility. That is, they don’t really believe there is a god watching them. I should add here that the Black Collar Crime Blotter covers two or more full pages of each issue of the FFRF newspaper. In the issue where I got these examples, there were 65 thumbnail sketches, similar to the above, under the headings Arrested/Charged, Pleaded/Convicted, Sentenced, Civil Lawsuits Filed, Civil Lawsuits Settled, Legal Developments, Removed/Resigned, and Other. This suggests that, including those who never commit such crimes, there must be thousands of practicing clergy who don’t actually believe in god(s).

I wonder, what do you folks think? Are Carl and I right, that most such perpetrators don’t really believe in god(s)? Or are there other possible explanations for their behavior beyond the three I have suggested above?

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